We celebrate Festivals at Etz Chayim with great spirit and, when appropriate, great fun. The specifics of our observances may vary from year to year.
On Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, we gather together in an offsite facility to accommodate our large holy day congregation. Praying with prayer books created by and for our community, we create beautiful harmonies and opportunities for introspection. Family-friendly, wheelchair accessible, and with English transliteration for all Hebrew prayers, our services are open to all, but non-members do need to make prior arrangements to attend.
The day after Yom Kippur we begin preparing for Sukkot by building a beautiful sukkah in the courtyard of our synagogue. During the festival we share meals, drinks, and song inside. Members can make reservations to have a family meal. A lulav and etrog are made available to shake. Sukkot services mark our appreciation for the abundance in our lives.
Hanukkah at Etz is visually stunning. On the Friday night of the holiday, everyone is invited to bring at least one menorah to light. Watching the hundreds of candles burning while we welcome Shabbat with song is a truly moving experience as we remember the miracles of ancient times that continue to this day.
Tu BiShvat is often marked with a special Seder created by kabbalists (medieval mystics). Trees and all they can represent metaphorically and ecologically are especially cherished at a congregation called Etz Chayim which means the Tree of Life.
Purim brings out the creativity in our members. Whether it’s a classic Purim Play or a karaoke performance, the megillah (the scroll of the Book of Esther) reading, in Hebrew and English, is always accompanied by an amateur performance that has the congregation laughing, singing, and booing Haman with gusto. Children are treated to classic or contemporary carnival games. Home-made hamantashen are handed out with abandon. Our Purim Pizza dinner became a tradition when someone noticed that the slices are as triangular as hamantashen. We also distribute Mishloach Manot (Purim goody bags) throughout our community.
At Passover, we host three seders on the second night, all held at the synagogue. One is geared for families with toddlers; another for families and adults who enjoy a seder that is short and sweet, but goes through all the steps of the traditional ritual; and a third which allows for ample singing and discussion of some of the themes of the holiday. All are catered by the incomparable Wendy Kleckner of Too Caterers and are Kosher for Passover. We also match up hosts and guests for the first seder. Yizkor (memorial service) is said at the Shabbat morning service during the holiday. If you would like suggestions on how to make any Seder meaningful take a look at Why Not Chocolate by Rabbi Ari Cartun. For more information about selling your leaven click here to go to the form. For your own Omer counter to keep track of the 49 days (7 weeks) between Passover and Shavu'ot click here and for the blessing for counting click here.
Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Memorial Day) is marked with the lighting of memorial candles and a first hand account by a survivor of the Shoah. We also join with the whole Peninsula Jewish community at a memorial program conducted by leaders of our local synagogues of all denominations.
Israel Independence Day is typically celebrated with a large dose of Israeli culture including song, dance, film, books, and, of course, falafel.
For Shavuot, we join together with the other liberal congregations in the area to have a late night service and study session known as a Tikkun. It goes on all night for the hardy.